Shared Topic: Awareness

[Reply to Blog Azeroth Shared Topic of June 22nd: 'Being aware of your surroundings during raids' as proposed by Lissanna[src]
As a raid healer, a common thing these days is trying to balance keeping everyone in your raid alive, while still being able to move when you need to (ie. having the right amount of situational awareness to your surroundings during raids).

I thought it would be neat to see how all the classes (even tanks and DPS) handle the multi-tasking that is required during raids. Do tanks and DPS sometimes have tunnel vision and forget to watch for the AOE effects or whatever they need to move out of? How do other healers deal with avoiding the tunnel vision problem?

Interesting topic as usual, and I'll be giving my view as a rogue, but I'll also try to give some bear tank flavor to it to spice things up.

User Interface (UI)

Replying a bit later to this topic than usual I've had the chance to read up on some other replies to it (check the end of this post for links) and it seems everyone so far agrees that a good UI is important. The problem with this is of course that the concept 'good UI' is up to the player. Some people swear by the default UI, others change their UI mostly for the visual customization, others for the increased functionality, but often a mix of those.

Take for example my screenshot from the XT-002 fight. You can't really see the scrolling combat text that much (it's only showing a rupture tick after my death) but other that than it shows the most important stuff. You can see DBM warning me of Gravity Bomb and Light Bomb in the middle, with bars that stay into place to remind me of who has them, and you can see the Tantrum emote and the enemy cast bar (which is the Quartz mod) also warning me of that.

As you can see, the middle isn't all that cluttered and I have a pretty good view on the battle field (also note the effect of the camera distance macro allowing me to zoom out further - with thanks to Karthis of Of Teeth And Claws for sharing it back in the day). Granted, the scrolling combat text obstructs the sideview a little, but when tanking on my bear I set up a filter on my outgoing hits to only show stuff that didn't hit (e.g. a dodged Mangle or something).

DPS and 'the zone'

As Kahleena from Fel Deeds Awake! notes, DPS isn't always the facerolling people think it is. When you have a priority system to keep up your debuffs and DoTs and the boss, and there's a lot of stuff happening because the boss is trying to kill you, you need to multi-task and do both DPS and avoid damage.
The zone, then, is that matrix-like situation in which the world moves in slow motion (I'm not talking lag here, people) but you do everything at normal speed. You anticipate slice and dice is about to fall off. You feel the cooldown on Fear is almost over and you run away from doomfires before you are feared into them. You see that the timer on Light Bomb is almost over, and you get ready to cloak out of it should you get the next. The zone is the ultimate DPS state of mind.

As a tank, it works in the same way, but you have this predictive feeling where you can almost see the path adds are going to take. As a main tank, you're kind of limited even when in the zone, because you can't do much with a boss in your face.

DPS and tunnel vision

Often mistaken for 'the zone', tunnel vision is when you are paying so much attention to your skill priority ("oh god, slice and dice AND hunger for blood are about to fall off!") that you fail to notice your surroundings (your feet are on fire and you're not wearing the summer festival sandals) and you're taking damage that could easily be prevented. In the best case scenario, you're still causing healers to divert their attention to you when they could be doing something more useful. In the worst case scenario, they spend a lot of mana to try and save your behind and you still die.

As a tank, it's where you think you picked up all adds, but half of them are actually preparing healer soup with little bits of DPS.

Training awareness

The good news is you can train on getting in the zone. Just by practicing a lot on instances you can get better, of course, and the more you see a boss fight, the more you'll learn to predict scripted abilities etc.
For training your reaction to random abilities, PvP might prove to be interesting. Because the opponent is also controlled by human players, a lot of things are totally random. For example, a rogue can train in cloaking things by lurking around a group of opponents, killing one and getting away safely. This usually requires a fast combination of some form of CC (blind, gouge, KS ... you won't use these in PvE a lot but it's often necessary in PvP to have a chance in getting away) and a few things to get you into safety (cloak of shadows, vanish, sprint, not necessarily in that order).

Other bloggers on this topic

Lissanna @ Restokin
Shopshopshop @ Runeforge Gossip
The Renaissance Man @ The Children of Wrath
Almaster @ Lux Legis
Kahleene @ Fel Deeds Awake!

Reader question(s)

So what about you? What does your UI look like? Are you often in the zone, or more often in the tunnel vision state? If you play multiple classes, do you lose focus easier on some classes than on the other ones?

Patch 3.2 PTR: first thoughts

(For the full 3.2 patch notes, check this link on MMOChampion)

Somebody set up us the bomb! ... I mean, this is quite the controversial patch so far.

* Arenas
o The newest season of Arena gear can only be purchased if you meet the requirements with your 3 or 5 player team rating. Rating requirements from 2 player teams can still be used to purchase the previous season of gear.

I suppose this is because they believe that 2v2 is too hard to really balance... but I think it's a bad idea if they wanted more participation in arenas.

* Battlegrounds
o Battleground experience has arrived!
+ Players will now be awarded experience for completing objectives and actions that yield honor in Battlegrounds (honorable kills not included).
+ Players who do not wish to gain experience through PvP can visit Behsten in Stormwind or Slahtz in Orgrimmar - both located near the Battlemasters in either city - and turn off all experience accumulation for the cost of 10 gold.
+ Disabling experience gains will prevent a player from gaining experience through any means available in the game.
+ Players with experience gains turned off who compete in Battlegrounds will face off only against other players with experience gains turned off.
+ Behsten and Slahtz can reinstate experience gains for players, for a 10 gold fee of course. Any experience that would've been accumulated if experience gains were not turned off cannot be recovered.

So, one can now level purely by PvP (but I suspect the exp gain would be roughly the same as grinding mobs, e.g. questing will still be faster.) Pretty cool though. I've had times when I wanted to hop into a BG but didn't because I would lose out on leveling.

* Battlegrounds
o When standing at a capture point that you control, you will gain a buff called Honorable Defender. This buff grants +50% honor gained from kills. This currently affects Arathi Basin, Eye of the Storm and Isle of Conquest.

This fixes the problem where defenders gained less honor than the HK farming idiots. Okay, you'll still get less honor if nobody actually comes to the node you're defending, but if that is the case, you're probably defending the wrong node :P

* Battlegrounds
o Arathi Basin
+ The time it requires to capture a base has been reduced to 8 seconds, down from 10 seconds.
+ The game now ends when one team reaches 1600 victory points, down from 2000.
o Eye of the Storm
+ The time it requires to capture the center flag has been reduced to 8 seconds, down from 10 seconds
+ The game now ends when one team reaches 1600 victory points, down from 2000.
o Strand of the Ancients
+ The faction starting on attack/defense will now be randomized at the start of each match.
o Warsong Gulch
+ There is a now a 20 minute timer on this battleground. After that time, the team with the most flag captures wins. If this would result in a tie, the team that captured the first flag wins. If neither side has captured a flag, then the game ends in a tie.

No more endless WSGs, and some sped-up ABs and EOTS. I guess it'll be a bit more bearable to farm Justicar/Conqueror now?

Items: General
#Emblem system changes
* Both the 10 and 25 player instances of the Crusaders' Coliseum drop a new Emblem of Triumph.
* Any dungeons that previously dropped Emblems of Heroism or Valor, such as Naxxramas or Heroic Halls of Stone, will now drop Emblems of Conquest instead. Emblems of Conquest can still be converted to Valor or Heroism.
* The heroic dungeon daily quest will now reward 2 Emblems of Triumph and the normal daily dungeon quest will reward 1 Emblem of Triumph.

Whine topic of the day! Anyway, I guess it's nice - if the new dungeon coming with this patch is a step up from Ulduar, this'll get people geared a lot faster (including me - I'm behind a month and a half in gear).

i'll write up some more thoughts on other stuff in a later post.

Isle of Conquest: AV meets SOTA and Wintergrasp ?

Okay, I'm not gonna quote the wall of text full of info on the new battleground, Isle of Conquest, that is coming up in the next major content patch. You can just read the source. Go ahead and read it, I'll wait.

Noticed this ?

Taking this resource garners precious reinforcements and a continuous flow of honor to the side that controls it.

This is a bit like the mines in AV, but the honor part is new. That's a lot more of an incentive to hold the objectives, too.

Once onboard the airship, players will find it comes equipped with parachutes enabling a strike team to drop into the enemy keep from above.

Not really new as a mechanic, but nice to see it officially supported by Blizzard ;) If isle of Conquest should turn into a grindfest like AV, I know what I'll be doing.

It will be interesting to see how the vehicles fit into the battleground. If Isle of Conquest is to become a controlled (read: lag-free, more or less even numbers of players) Wintergrasp variant, this could be a lot of fun.

With Wintergrasp being so popular that they have to change daily quests into weekly quests, I see a chance for a very popular battleground that will usually be filled. And with the sides being even in numbers, it's a great alternative to Wintergrasp for those realms with an incredibly skewed Alliance to Horde ratio or low overall population, because a battlegroup should be able to provide plenty of players.

Off-topic: traffic
At the start of this month I noticed my google Analytics tracker wasn't installed properly and I had been tracking nothing at all since the start of this blog. I fixed it though, so I have two weeks of traffic reports now.
It reports 2541 visits and 3180 pageviews (a whopping 1633 of those were on my 'Gearing up for PvP' guide which linked to in their Daily Quest column - that's the huge spike at the end). This was a lot more compared to the other time they linked to me (that was the post about having fun in PvP) which had about 93 pageviews. So yeah .. nice flow from there and I hope it helped a few people out :)

Gearing up for PvP

Note: thanks to my guildie Pharous for posting a similar post on the guild forums and inspiring me to write my own.

Now, this is not a chronological list, it just lists some options you can use to gear up, and how they rank compared to eachother. I'm assuming you have no arena rating or points.

Crafted Gear
The most basic gear here is the Eviscerator's Battlegear set. This is an eight-piece set with no sockets and a total of 350 resilience. However it's got a fair amount of stamina and it's not that expensive to get either. So buy the mats, find a leatherworker, give mats and tip, collect gear.

You can also supplement this set with some crafted jewelcrafting stuff (Emerald Choker, Scarlet Signet and Savage Titanium Ring or Titanium Impact Choker and Titanium Impact Band if you have more money to spend) and a crafted cape, the Frostguard Drape.

Regarding weapons, you can get a Titansteel Shanker crafted by a friendly blacksmith.

You can trade Emblems of Heroism, Valor etc. for PvP gear. Emblems of Heroism give Savage Gladiator gear, which is a step up from the crafted set. I would recommend buying a Rolfsen's Ripper first, though.
Emblems of Valor get you Hateful Gladiator's Gear, which you can also buy for Honor. They are all the same iLvL as most of the Titan-forged gear from the Wintergrasp vendors.

Other than the Hateful set, you can also buy the Deadly non-set pieces for honor (that is, bracers, belt, boots, necklace and ring). The bracers and boots are better than the ones you can get through Wintergrasp, the belt is roughly the same.

You can also buy the Battlemaster's trinkets here (I chose Battlemaster's Conviction myself, but in retrospect I might've gone for the +crit one), and the Medallion of the Alliance/Horde, which you will definitly want unless you're Human.

Lots of PvP loot to be had here. The titan-forged helm and boots are on par with Hateful Gladiator gear, the belt and chest are on par with Deadly Gladiator gear. All of them are bought with Wintergrasp marks.

There is also an alternative to the medallion available, keeping the traditional trinket effect and replacing the resilience of the Medallion with another useful stat (crit/AP/haste/hit), a PvP version of the Mirror of Truth, and another trinket with passive resilience and an on-use AP or haste increase.

You can also buy some gems and enchants with Stone Keeper Shards. And a mammoth.

And last but not least, you can raid the Vault of Archavon for a chance at both PvE and PvP loot.

How to gear up
My guildie suggested this:

(a) If you don't raid or you don't have any excess Emblems, get the crafted gear and go farm battlegrounds.
(b) If you do have Emblems to spend, do so. Just don't buy the chest.

Grind honor and buy Hateful Glad pieces with them (but not the chest) until you have the 4 set bonus. Get the Belt and Boots from Wintergrasp Marks.

Get the chest from Wintergrasp.

Get the bracers, two rings (Hateful and Deadly), necklace, cloak, and the Medallion for honor. Buy the cheapest things first.

Enjoy !

Digging up old screenshots

When I'm bored, I like to go dig up old screenshots in my WoW folder and rack up those old memories. The contrast between my early Horde days and what I am now is big ... and there are a lot of people on these screenshots that I miss.

It's odd, though. When I first started playing, I was on EU-Defias Brotherhood (RP-PvP) and I mostly RP'd. In fact I was so focused on roleplaying that I didn't really get on with leveling. The highest character I got on that server is a lv 47 Troll hunter. It's not that I sucked at leveling, but there was always RP to be found, and I rarely chose leveling over RP.

Then I rolled Alliance on an RP server and I consider myself a raiding/PvP hybrid player. I'm not even interested in RP anymore (unless I'm in a really poetic mood maybe). And it's kind of hard getting both of those things done on this server, because we are one of the lowest ranked realms on the raiding progress list (#239 of 255 on wowprogress, I would guess the only ones behind us are newer realms) and our battlegroup isn't exactly balanced either as I said before.

Anyway, some of these things are memories that will stick for a very long time.
Stuff like massive RP guild meets, or doing stealth runs with a few druids and a rogue, epic tanking moments (misclicking and getting shifted out of bearform as Azgalor hits me ... err bad example.). The opening of AQ. A lv 1 Hogger raid.

I also found some even older screenshots in my Fraps folder. Terribly old screens, because they're not even from WoW - they are Guild Wars screens. Screens of my lv 10 elementalist, with a christmas hat, watching the new years fireworks in a city I can't even remember the name of.

I'll leave you with a GM chatlog that I found on these screenshots ...

Unmercey 7 and other rogue videos

I watched Unmercey 7, which Rogue-Rogue linked to in their latest blog entry.

The subtitle of the video (Unmercey 7: Hana) confused me at first. I figured it referred to the flower in the description image, because 'hana' is 'flower' in Japanese. The problem with this is that Unmercey is a Chinese player, not Japanese, so it didn't make sense - it should have been 'huā' (I have no idea what tone it is in Modern Chinese - I just know it is this one in archaic Chinese .. go figure). Turns out it was reference to the last song in the movie, which was a JPop song. Ah well.

Anyway. The video featured some refreshing Shadow Dance spec footage. Assuming the players he duels have a decent amount of resilience, he is still getting 5K ambushes off, which I found fairly suprising. With the (justified) nerf to Overkill and our burst as Muti/Prep, perhaps the more burst-biased people might spec Shadow Dance.

This Sub spec also has shadowstep for increased mobility (though I do wonder if it weighs up against Fleetfooted). I must admit I preferred some of Unmercey's earlier videos: Unmercey 5 & 6 both showcased some very creative moves like FoK-Vanish-Sap to flush out stealthers.

This movie didn't showcase that many new moves, but it did prove that a subtlety build can be just as viable in the right hands (and with the right amount of keybinding, no doubt).

There's some other good rogue movies out there as well. Akrios from Rogue-rogue has some neat ones (though I think the only up to date ones are a few random arena footage ones) and Krymu is also a popular name in the rogue movie scene.

Meanwhile I am still stuck with exams. I passed my archaic Chinese exam yesterday, and the next one is friday: business economics. I'm doing some 'when I get back' planning for WoW, but I'm running out of ideas since my armory isn't up-to-date and I can't remember my PvE gear that well anymore (especially enchanting and gem choices are foggy)

Shared Topic: Healers

[Reply to Blog Azeroth Shared Topic of June 8th: Non-healers views of healers as proposed by Nigiri[src]
I would love to read blogger's thoughts on who they like to have heal them. Would you prefer a Holy priest of a Disc priest? A Holy pally or a Resto druid. Shammy maybe?
This depends on some things in my opinion. I don't think I really have a particular choice.
The role
I find I'm not that aware of my healers anymore since my transition from tanking to DPS (as you know I played a druid tank in TBC). When I was tanking, I had a good idea of who was keeping me up. You know when there's a lifebloom rolling on you because of that constant green stream in scrolling combat text, and the bigger heals from the other classes stand out because of that.
As melee DPS much of the damage done to me can be avoided by paying attention. A heal will come sooner or later, but if I can help it I might not need one right away.
I guess I depend less on the healers as a DPS.

The place
In five mans, you usually take one healer only. Here is where you will really feel if your healer is paying attention to you. It's very fun as a tank to chainpull and test yourself and the healer. However, I have found out that DPS casualties are sometimes a result of this hehe. In 25 mans there is usually a healer for 'raid healing', so you will probably get a heal thrown your way.
The particular boss fight is also an important factor: if a healer or two is enough to keep up the main tank, than the rest can concentrate more on keeping DPS alive.

The healers
From a tank point of view, if you group with your healers a lot you know what they are capable of healing you through (sometimes they can pull off amazing things) and they know what you can take if you have your cooldowns.
From a DPS point of view you can't really expect them to keep track of all your cooldowns (I very much doubt if a healer knows if I used CloS recently or not).

As a bear tank, if I would really have to choose a class to keep me up I would say paladins. It's kind of hard to explain why -it doesn't help that it's been a while since I've tanked- but I suppose in my opinion, the flash of light stream of heals fit the dodged/non-dodged style of incoming attacks for a bear.

As a DPS, I think it's really nice to have a tree druid on raid healing duty. A HoT feels very secure for some reason - like you are safe for the time being, as long as that HoT is rolling. The fact that they can also use Swiftmend to turn that HoT into an instant heal when needed just adds extra security.

The tanks
Say what? Yes. A good tank should be able to safeguard the DPS from a lot of damage (think picking up adds quickly and such). With a bad tank your healers will have to work harder. With a good tank (and we have those, I hope you do too) you are safe to DPS to your hearth's content, and an occasional heal will keep you up.

Special mention: PvP
It's always awesome when a player decides to heal in PvP. Here, there is that tank-and-healer-like connection between you and your healer, because often, you are the one 'tanking' the opponent regardless of your class. This is also a nice opportunity to see how a healer performs under extreme pressure: bosses do not make intelligent decisions. A boss will never try to lock down a healer while luring the tank out of line of sight of that healer. A boss will not alternate an immunity CC (like cyclone) between you and your healer so you cannot be healed.

Shared Topic: Favorite Quest

[Reply to Blog Azeroth Shared Topic of June 1st: Deconstruct your favourite quest/zone as proposed by Spinks[src]

The first part was deciding what quest or zone. I decided I'd go for a quest, because there is not really a particular zone I like, though there are some I have fond memories of (for example, Netherwing dailies in Shadowmoon Valley).

In the end I managed to choose to pick one that has stuck to me for several reasons which I will explain below. The chain in question is the famed Cipher of Damnation questchain in Shadowmoon Valley, which also happens to be the start for the attunement process for Serpentshrine Cavern. Do not read this if you haven't done this questline, because it contains heavy spoilers.

The start
The chain starts off when a member of the Earthern Ring redirects you to Earthmender Torlok in Shadowmoon Valley. Nature in this zone doesn't look too well (it's all dead and there's green lava and such) and you are sent on three quests to commune with the spirits. Anyway, having done that, you learn about a spell that may have caused the current look of Shadowmoon Valley, and you are sent to seek out Oronok Torn-heart, a scruffy looking orc hermit.

Oronok and his sons
Oronok puts you to the test by having you kill some things in the neighborhood of his place, and then he reveals you his story. He tells you:
"They [the words of the spell - red.] are know as the Cipher of Damnation: The words uttered by Gul'dan himself to shatter this land. The very spell that severed the last remaining tie the orcs had with the elements of Draenor."
He then asks you to go search for his sons around Shadowmoon Valley. All three of them have some chores for you, and all three will eventually (after a quest or three each) give you a fragment of the cipher of damnation.

The grand finale
With the cipher recovered, you head back to Oronok and are asked to go summon an elite you have to kill with a group. The place of summoning is an altar in memory of Gul'dan, at the base of the volcano known as the Hand of Gul'dan. The spirit of Gul'dan can be found here, as well as some other shaman spirits. When you read the spell aloud (you may recognize it from the Black Temple trailer) your screen shakes heavily, and the lava in front of you starts to develop smoke.

In the smoke, Cyrukh the Firelord spawns, with one of my favorite game quotes I might add:
Little creature made of flesh, your wish has been granted. Death comes for you!
And as you can see, he's one big, mean chunk of rock. I have very fond memories of this guy, because on my druid, I have tried every role on him. I originally did him as a balance druid. I have screens of this, and two of the randomly PuGed people would later end up in the same guild as me.
Later in my WoW career I would come back to help guildies and throw some heals, and even later I would be helping out by tanking him.

The reward is a nice blue item and a fire resistance necklace, but the special effects, including all sons and Oronok flying in to help out, and the effect of 'casting' the cipher, make this a very cool quest IMO.

Honorable mention: Dragonmaw Races
I should point out that I really liked the Dragonmaw races you can do for Netherwing rep. While I never beat Captain Skyshatter, I did defeat Mulverick and it was a fun and fresh concept. Learning the path he races and then trying to stay either ahead of him or right behind him made a very adrenaline-packed type of quest. Anyone remember that sharp dive on the north-eastern edge of the Netherwing Ledge ? He dives behind a ledge there and then 'pulls up' so you're right in his line of fire if you don't watch out.

As a sidenote I'd really appreciate some input on the layout. I got tired of the pitch-black feeling of the previous one, so I adjusted one of the basic blogger templates a bit so it matched my new header.

Adjusting layout

Don't panic if things look awful, I'm working on it.
Patience is a virtue of a good rogue !

EU PvP forums up in arms

There was a fairly important announcement last week for us EU PvPers: the long-awaited cross-language battlegroups were being implemented.

For those who are unaware of this feature, it basicly means that for example a group of Alliance consisting of French servers may be pitted against a group of Horde players from Spanish servers. A common misconception is that players from these servers with an other language will be mixed with the English servers, which is not the case.

Anyway, the goal of course is to decrease queues. There may not be enough English-speaking Alliance out there for you to smash, but perhaps there's a whole bunch of French Alliance queueing. So yeah, nice find.

Except not all battlegroups are being merged.

Battlegroups that will not be merged
English – Blackout, Misery and Vindication
German - Blutdurst
Russian - Шквал (Flurry) and Вихрь (Whirlwind)

In a suprising twist, six battlegroups are not being merged, for unknown reasons.
Blackout, Misery and Blutdurst are all big battlegroups. Vindication and the two Russian ones aren't.

Now, being from Vindication myself, I was quite suprised with this. The view I have of the battlegroup is a fairly low activity battlegroup, with an overrepresentation of Horde. I have instant queues, but I bet the Horde doesn't - from what I hear they can vary between 30 mins - an hour and a half.

A possible explanation for not merging the Russian battlegroups could be due to cyrillic characters posing a problem. Perhaps they don't want English/French/German/Spanish players to have to try and pronounce a Russian player's name over Vent, or something. Still sounds like a bit of a dumb excuse.

Others are bringing up technical limits due to the physical location of the battlegroup servers, but I don't buy that, and I hope we will get a proper answer soon.